The Art Fund has published the shortlist for its Museum of the Year award, with the winner of the £100,000 prize due to be announced on 3 July. This year the emphasis seems to be on a regional balance—with the inclusion of museums in Scotland (V&A Dundee), Wales (St Fagans) and Northern Ireland (HMS Caroline). Although England represents 85% of the UK’s population, there are only two English institutions on the list (Pitt Rivers Museum and Nottingham Contemporary).
V&A Dundee has attracted over 500,000 people in the seven months since the £80m dramatic Kengo Kuma-designed building opened on the Tay waterfront. It houses a gallery of Scottish art and design, along with major temporary exhibitions.
St Fagans National Museum of History on the outskirts of Cardiff was shortlisted after its £30m redevelopment project, completed last October. Presenting the history and culture of Wales, it remained open during the expansion, receiving 574,000 visitors in 2018.
The Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, dating from the late 19th century, is renowned for its idiosyncratic display of anthropology and archaeology. Last year it welcomed 502,000 visitors. Its new director, Laura Van Broekhoven, is presenting the collection more sensitively, while respecting the museum’s history and unique atmosphere.
Nottingham Contemporary, which was established in 2009, has maintained an ambitious exhibition programme. Last year it had 161,000 visitors.
HMS Caroline, the final contender, is a First World War cruiser which is moored in Belfast. After plans to scrap the vessel were dropped, a £20m conservation project was completed last year. Space is obviously limited on a ship, but it had just under 30,000 visitors from April 2018 until the end of December.
In selecting the Museum of the Year the Art Fund judges, chaired by its director Stephen Deuchar, will be looking for “exceptional imagination, innovation and achievement”. Recent past winners have been Tate St Ives (2018), The Hepworth Wakefield (2017), the Victoria and Albert Museum (2016), The Whitworth, Manchester (2015) and Yorkshire Sculpture Park (2014).